Archive for January, 2009

Asher Roth: Not the First of His Kind

January 25, 2009


One of XXL Magazine’s mostly refreshing 10 emcees to usher rap’s future, and apparent wonder-crush of Steve Rifkin’s collegiate daughter, Asher Roth has garnered quite the buzz for being the white white rapper. Hipsters dig him because they think he’s ironic (even though hearing “The Lounge” on 98.9 The Beat or in the Palmer Club doesn’t really sound misplaced), but hardcore varieties of fans show a more genuine respect for his own, new brand of honkey swagger… and maybe even his mic skills (imagine that). Either way, people are embracing him as the first full-blown preppy emcee. While Mic Skillz dropped the “Andover Hospitality” Ludacris spoof almost 8 years ago, that was only one track. And although John Brown is the self-proclaimed King of the Suburbs, he still dresses like NY Undercover reruns urge him toward the extra-large South Pole/Enyce racks at JC Penny, even though he obviously fits size smedium. Asher, absent of any forced, synthetic urban tokens, can use this to his advantage and could be about to win on a major scale.

While the codes of Philly Fuckery require me to hate on him (since I am, in fact another Caucasian hip-hopper that views himself tougher), the fact that I’m not a rapper myself makes his style easier for me to digest than for a lot of my acquaintances, and I might be fan just yet. I haven’t heard enough to decide one way or the other though… The point of this post is not to praise or denounce the artist, but to acknowledge the power of packaging, and give credit to a true innovator when it’s due. Say what you will about young Roth, but I don’t think he initially intended to pursue the frat boy gimmick before a few recent press shoots and the “I Love College” track. There is, however, a different individual that was all over this angle from the jump, starting five-plus years ago.

Enter Troy Walsh, daring proprietor of Burb Life Records, who hails from an even more fuck-random Pennsylvania town than Roth. While his MySpace page and “Happy Hour” video speak for themselves, note that it was all the way back in 2004 that he enlisted ‘now’ street DJ, Lt. Dan to release his promo mixtape, decorated with nothing besides images of golf greens and an old colonial-style logo. Yes, a new Asher track is banging for its creative sampling of a Weezer melody, but Troy rocks with an entire band every show… and even straps on the old axe himself, bitch. Then there are Mr. Unlikely’s credentials (some notables listed below), which despite some lost promise, overshadow the 22-year Roth’s rather vague rap sheet of pre-SRC dues paid and even out Walsh’s gaudier reliance on presentation.

Granted, there are some fairly distinct image discrepancies. Asher is more the upper class, frat-boy white dude, whereas Troy is more of a grungy, redneck scenester white dude. But the rap game isn’t ready for that degree of genre-splicing just yet, so there’s only room for one of them in the current industry niche of extra-white rapper. Right now, I’d be pretty disgruntled if I were Walsh, but the tides could easily turn with one failure to deliver a trend and an eager big label looking to capitalize on a new gimmick.

For now, they should settle this with a drinking contest. Congrats for affirming binge drinking as the new white stereotype.

Roth Boys

Happy Hour



Freeway/ DJ NoPhrillz “Best Things in Life Are Free” Mixtape

January 5, 2009

Originally written by yours truly for Illadelph Magazine this past November.  Special thanks to Ccelli of Exponent Entertainment for the look on this one…

FREEWAY/ DJ NOPHRILLZ – “The Best Things in Life are Free”

Rap game reality check of 2008: while overzealous nerds and hippies have slowly made a snot rag of the “underground hip-hop” stamp in the past several years, their jock-ish, crackrap counterparts are now doing the same to the mixtape movement.  For a brief moment, street tapes were once again the symbol of raw hiphop- a refuge for even the most high profile emcees to remove their music from pop culture’s demanding influences.  However, the commoditization and overproduction of ‘street’ mixes has dulled the subculture’s edge, dissolving most of the endless releases to a puddle of uninspired takes on over-used industry beats.  And with the onslaught of new school, alternative buzz-acts turning the heads of fans and tastemakers alike, a lot of the identically-packaged corner favorites are finding it even more difficult to make their way to eager fans.  Lucky for me, living in what’s arguably the most talented rap city in the country, I’ll always have easy access to material from the likes of Freeway and DJ NoPhrillz so that I’m not looking for a needle in a haystack…

Appropriately titled The Best Things in Life are Free, Philly Freezer’s new mixtape takes me back to a recent past where an artist’s latest underground mix was more anticipated than formal studio projects.  This won’t become an express, conceptual ‘masterpiece’ among bloggers, like that of Wale and Jay Electronica, but it doesn’t need to be.   It’s the stripped down nature of the CD, free from gimmicks and cosigns that make it so enjoyable.  Sometimes we want nothing more than cadences and delivery, and Free has so much flow that even his verses sound like hooks.  And while spoofing other artists’ tracks is the mixtape norm, it’s rare to see an emcee do it with more charisma and wit to where the original versions are almost unlistenable.   The intense, rapid fire jabs and aggressive concept twist that make up his own version of Game’s “Big Dreams” not only manifest a more exhilarating rendition, but place Freeway’s lyrical creativity on a pedestal among the peers he’s often grouped alongside.  Another clever parody is his ode to PA via the Swizz Beats/ Busta Rhymes classic “NY Shit,” which brilliantly marks where Philly proudly distinguishes itself from the neighboring metropolis.  Most importantly, the actual content is 99% Freeway, and he keeps the concise, 12-track mix unpredictable without any posse filler or excessive verse juggling from NoPhrillz- to the point rap music… *Plays the M.I.A. ‘Paper Planes’ remix*

Some of My Favorite Show Fliers

January 5, 2009

This first is a crazy flier from ASK? in celebration of Reef the Lost Cauze and Nico the Beast’s dual CD release party in April 08.   I challenge anyone to make a rap show promotion that looks more like United States currency………..

Side note:  this is the first time I’ve ever been bribed for a performance slot on a show.  This Patra look-alike approached me at the entrance (I hate working the door at my own shows) with a $20 bill that looked like it had been used everywhere besides someone’s ass.  When I resisted, she upped the ante with another $20.  I told her she couldn’t pay me $400 for a spot and she started crying.  Al Mighty swooped in like he was Camden’s Dr. Phil and somehow appeased the situation without any sexual advances…  Nothing but class over here.

After 12+ months of scowering the darkest corners of the Google Images database for backdrop photos to use on FRIDAY FIX fliers, this one was too great to pass on any longer.   I’ll never forget the look on the Staples clerk’s face when I submitted this one for print.

One of DJ Akshun’s best designs to date.   The concept’s self-explanatory, unless you’re more obvlivious to pro-basketball than I am.   College hoops is much better viewing, but fuck it.  I doubt eveyone would have recognized plays on the St John’s, Villanova and Georgetown logos.

All the way back in July of 2006 when I was still living a free man (which actually makes it seem like 5 years ago).  First and only live  hiphop show at the Bubble House, with the exception of Innermission 215’s spoken word series.  Props to Lauren Lopez on the design- I think this was her first and only flier not done for a hippy music show.